Another year has come and gone, and it’s time for some anniversary fun!
Indeed, SB and I recently celebrated our 8th anniversary! This year had a couple of especially exciting details to it. First, we are in Iceland! Second, we actually got to spend our anniversary together! We have a pretty abysmal track record with actually having time together on the anniversary itself (or other such misadventures as a car dying), but this year it fell on a day we both had off!
So, as a way of celebrating both of those things plus the anniversary itself we opted to go a bit “crazy” this year and begin our celebrations a full week early. Part of that had to do with weather on the weekend prior.
There is a building near us known as “Perlan” (The Pearl in Icelandic) and if you follow this blog (or have visited Reykjavík) you’ve seen it several times, even if you don’t realize you have.
Perlan is many things… landmark, museum, cafe, bar, restaurant, coffee shop, gift store, observation point, water storage facility, etc. I have to say that in all my travels I’ve never quite been in anything like it. When I see something new, I have a nearly oppressive desire to explore it – and that Perlan literally sits on the horizon of my daily view made the desire to explore all the more intense.
SB was also interested, but a couple things had previously held us back. One, distance – despite not being that far away from us as the
crow raven flies, Perlan requires walking around the domestic airport to get to. Second, and more importantly, weather. Perlan sets up on a hill, Öskjuhlíð (betcha’ can’t pronounce that), which means that you get good views of the area – but it also means you’re really exposed to the elements. So SB and I had sort of been waiting for a good weather day that we both had time on. Sadly this took a long time. However, the weekend before our anniversary we woke up and there were blue skies! So we decided to hop out of bed and make our way over to Perlan.
Naturally by the time we got out of the apartment and were on our way clouds rolled it, but at least it wasn’t raining (for a change)! The walk over was nice. As mentioned you have to loop around the northern end of the domestic airport, which often yields some nice views of planes flying right above you as they land (Tristen’s favorite part). After that you make your way up to Öskjuhlíð, which is one of those areas that makes you quickly forget you’re in the middle of a city.
There are a lot of paths on Öskjuhlíð, not all of which go to Perlan. It’s a fairly nice paved trail system. We opted for one of the quicker routes on our side of the hill, which branched off from the dual path in the photo above.
It got decently steep in a few parts – enough so that it’d be rough in snow. But before too long we made our way to the clearing at the top of the hill where Perlan awaited us!
Even at this point we’d gained a decent amount of elevation for the area.
Since Perlan is literally built in and around giant hot water storage tanks it’s a bit bigger up close than it seems to be from a distance.
As you can see the central area of the structure was built between the tanks.
We didn’t know it, but we’d actually came up the “back way” (go figure, considering my history of going about things back-asswards), so we had to loop around to the front of the building to get inside.
If you follow a straight (impossible but work with me) line from this next photo (facing west) you will eventually get to our house. So we came up the hill “behind” Perlan.
Once inside you have a few options. Perlan itself is free with a few caveats. You can go into the building for free. In the “free zone” you have food, beverages (of the both the normal and adult varieties), restrooms, a gift shop, and good views from within the dome. Until very recently (September, I think) you could go out onto the viewing platform for free, but they’ve since started charging 490 ISK for it (~$4.65). In addition to the viewing platform, which is essentially the top of the tanks, there is a full-fledged museum and ice cave inside Perlan (including one of the tanks) – which is more pricey at 2900 ISK (~$27.35), however the museum fee includes the viewing platform – so that’s what we did.
When you first enter you are in the “core” area between the tanks and pretty much have to go up or down if you aren’t starting at the museum.
Since we weren’t sure about the weather we decided to start with the viewing platform in case rain rolled in. It offers quite a view!
Here’s a more focused shot looking west-northwest (that’s downtown Reykjavík to the right).
And here’s a more directly western view, you can see HI’s campus in the center to center-left of the photo.
Moving around the viewing platform a bit, here is a shot looking to the north. While you can’t really see it, the start of the long road SB and I took north to the Westfjords lies along the base of the distant mountain (Esjan).
Then, looping all the way around to the south side, you get a view of the southern harbor (we live out on what is essentially a peninsula).
We watched a little sailboat sailin’ around for a bit, it was a good day for sailing. Plenty of wind, but not the crazy stuff we normally have.
As you can kind of tell, the observation platform wraps around the central glass dome. They built it on top of the hot water storage tanks – the majority of which are still used (lots of steam coming out of the vents!). As you walk around there are lots of little signs explaining what you are looking at, as well as overpriced viewing machines (which I just learned are apparently called “Tower Viewers“) – though not as overpriced as those in Boston.
They also have a variety of rocks/minerals on display from the various regions of Iceland.
Pigsten revealed himself from my pocket and was all over that shiz.
One of the tanks also had a cool sundial with surrounding topographical information – not that I could read any of it.
Pigsten used his geological knowledge to guide us.
About that time we started to get pretty chilly, so we headed inside to have some yummy coffee!
In order to get our coffee we had to head up into the top-floor dome area, which is actually above the viewing deck.
There are two places to get coffee inside, a more “grab and go” type place, and then a full-service coffee shop up on the dome – we obviously went for the full service.
It was really neat, they were in the middle of installing a hydroponic “green wall” in the middle of the upper dome area. I’d like to go back at some point and see the plants once they’ve had time to grow.
After our chilly walk and viewing experience, warm coffee sounded delicious, and it was!
We’d also worked up a bit of an appetite from our walk, so we through in some yogurt and a salmon sandwich, because why not!
We enjoyed a good chat while taking in the views – which are really good even from inside the dome.
We even got to see a few little planes taking off from one of the secondary runways.
After we’d had our coffee and noms’ we headed back down to the museum. We’d timed it well because the next ice cave entrance was only about 10 minutes away, so we browsed through the photo gallery they had outside the cave while we waited.
The photos were from all over Iceland, showcasing its various environmental extremes. One that I thought was really crazy was a photo which showed a boulder that had been blasted through the air during the 2010 eruption. Yes seriously – this thing got blasted over a massive distance.
After that it was time to enter the ice cave! Now, obviously this is a man-made ice cave. It’s designed as a replica of the actual ice caves which exist in several parts of Iceland. These aren’t caves with ice in them, mind you. These are literally caves through solid ice. It’s pretty crazy. The Perlan replica is 100 meters long and made out of 350 tonnes of ice and snow, so pretty dang substantial.
The entry reminded me a bit of SB and I’s ice museum adventures in Chena Hot Springs, Alaska. You could get suited up in a warm parka if you wanted one, then you went through what were essentially two airlocks before making your way into the entrance of the cave. Once inside you were immediately greeted by the snuggly-warm -10C (14F) temperatures.
The way they had done the lighting was really cool (literally and figuratively) – as it was behind a layer of ice with blue filters, which gave everything a really neat blue hue in some areas.
For the most part the cave was fairly straightforward, but in a few areas there were different paths you could take – each showcasing a different aspect of a real-world ice cave.
If you are getting hardcore Echo Base vibes from this, so did I.
As mentioned, different areas of the cave were designed to showcase different types of ice formations as you’d find them in actual ice caves.
This translucent area was probably my favorite – the patterns and detail in the ice was amazing.
Here’s a closer shot.
They’d also done a really good of creating the “illusion” of an ice trench.
These are the fissures you’d find in glaciers that go down.. well.. really deep. Our cave guide was pretty blunt – if you fall into one of these you’re pretty much f*cked. I say they had created the “illusion” of one because they’d use a cleverly placed mirror to simulate a deep-ass trench. You can’t really blame them, as they don’t need kids plummeting to their icy-blackness-doom as they slowly freeze to death in agony in the middle of a family friendly museum. If you look closely you can see the mirror in this next photo.
They also had a recreated “air vent” which would naturally form in the glacier. These are also really, really deep – but much more narrow.
If you thought you spotted a Pigsten in that air vent, you’d be correct.
Since a little dinosaur isn’t equipped for such ice cave living, we made our way to the exit – which they had designed in such a manner as to make it seem like you were leaving an actual cave.
Side note: It starting snowing outside while I was writing the ice cave section, fitting!
Once out of the cave you enter an exhibit on global warming, glaciers, and Iceland’s geological/climatological history and future in general.
This circular exhibit is situated above the ice cave, which is itself contained within one of the water storage tanks. So the whole of the museum (save for the photo exhibit) is actually in an refitted tank, kinda cool.
The exhibit had a lot of really good (and high tech) displays about the changing climate and how that’s generally bad news (for everyone, not just Iceland).
They had some pretty awesome digital images which curved along the wall and displayed things as they would change in real time.
In fact, one part of the wall was interactive. You could stand in certain parts and the wall would track your movements, so you could interact with things on the map by pointing at them or moving around. It was really neat and quite interesting – I especially liked the ones focused on naminals’ because they would move around when you pointed at them.
As you made your way out of the exhibit there was a wall with little plastic disks that you could leave messages on. People from pretty much all over the world had left messages, the Boys did too.
There were a couple which I thought were kind of funny.
After the exhibit we started to make our way back to our apartment because we were trying to keep ahead of the inevitable rain.
We took the same path down Öskjuhlíð, but this time I opted to explore a bit of the side routes.
After walking through some bushes I noticed something that seemed an awful lot like the remains of a bunker.
Now, I have no military experience (not that you need any to recognize a bunker), but I’d been in an IDF bunker on the Syrian border and it had similar vibes – albeit in a bit better shape. Turns out it was a bunker.
Yep, while mostly being rumble and a graffiti hotpsot now, we’d stumbled on the remains of part of the U.S. Occupying Forces defensive network during World War II. The part we’d found was one of the entrances plus a machine-gun nest – both of which were haphazardly sealed off with rocks.
Had you really wanted you could still get inside, but I wasn’t really wanting to, lol. I was more than happy to just explore the surface area.
If you were wondering “why this spot?” – well, that’s because Öskjuhlíð directly overlooks Reykjavíkurflugvöllur (the domestic airport), which was a hugely important airport for not only World War II, but also for the GIUK gap during the Cold War.
The bunker network wasn’t the only “war relic” as there was also a huge blasted-out pit where they’d placed and hidden fuel storage tanks during the war.
The tanks set down in the pit for protection, and then were coverage by camouflage. They also used the rocks they’d blasted out to build the war-time runway which had to be expanded due to the increased traffic and plane-size.
Speaking of rocks, Pigsten acquired his newest rock from the bunker – marking yet another impressive acquisition for the little guy.
Once Pigsten had his rock we continued back home, taking in some ducky butts in the wetland area in front of HI.
Once home we went to the small store near us (Háskólabúðin) for some drinks. One of things I got – and regret – was this atrocity.
I’ve described “near-beers” already, but this one took the cake at 0.0% ABV. I mean, that should of been a warning sign, but curiosity got the best of me. The result was the worst beer I have ever had. It is so bad that I don’t even know how to describe it. But let’s put it this way, choosing between this and Natty Ice, I’d chose Natty Ice. Fortunately the terrible “beer” was the only upsetting portion of our Perlan day!
That was the end of “Phase 1” of our 8th Anniversary festivities. The next had to wait until the following Friday, where I fixed us up a yummy (near) anniversary dinner!
It consisted of grilled salmon, garlic bread, and roasted vegetables with a mustard sauce. Delicious! Since eating out is just really, really expensive we’d decide to forgo it (yep, even for our anniversary) – however everyone agreed that we hadn’t missed out on much as dinner was awesome! Of course any good dinner needs a good treat, so we also had the first cake I’ve baked in Iceland!
Technically it was the second baked good we’ve produced. SB attempted to make banana bread prior to my cake, but she put Hjartarsalt in it by mistake (she thought it was baking powder). Turns out Hjartarsalt is another name for “ammonium chloride” (noticing the theme here? Why Iceland? Why?) which promptly rendered our bread inedible – at least to us, some people love Hjartarsalt.
Fortunately I learned from SB’s error and just used what we have and know to be baking soda (Matarsódi) instead of baking powder (which we still haven’t found). The end result was a super yummy white chocolate-caramel-fudge cake!
It was good enough that we ate on it for the next 3 days. 🙂
Naturally, good food, good treaties, and happy occasions cannot properly exist without good drinks. SB ventured out and got us not only some good beer, but also a pumpkin!
Yes, as a I not-so subtly alluded to last time, we acquired Thomas IV! Thomas has a long history which goes all the way back to 2014 and becomes increasingly storied each year. Generally we get a Jack-be-little pumpkin to be Thomas, but we could find no such variety in Iceland, so we went with a standard punkin’ for Thomas IV (his power grows). Kudos to SB for hauling Thomas and beer home from the other side of Vesturbær!
Despite having a cake, we used our looming anniversary as an excuse to get pretty much anything we wanted that weekend – including pops and more treats! Case in point, we found some polar bear gummies for Valentino!
And.. not to be forgotten some dino gummies for Tristen!
If you’re wondering about Pig, he ate both. 🙂
And that was pretty much the weekend, mostly just chilling, eating, and drinking things. We also had pretty decent weather for the weekend, which we’d hoped would stick around until Monday (our actual anniversary) but alas the clouds rolled back in. Fortunately it didn’t rain and it hadn’t gotten stupidly cold yet, so we were still able to get out and about and enjoy things!
Just what did we enjoy you ask? Well, the answer would be feeding the duckies – and geese – and swans – and (asshole) seagulls, of course!
Yes, we decided to put the ole’ nanner’ bread to good use and headed over to Tjörnin feed it to the friends. They did not seem to mind the Hjartarsalt in the least. Before too long we were pretty much swarmed by friends. Sadly I didn’t get any good photos of the swarm because I was feeding them, but here is a shot of the build up to the swarm.
In this next photo you can see Chuck and Chica, our two ducky friends who follow us around the world on our adventures and have ever since 2013.
After the friends had consumed an entire loaf of nanner’ bread we parted ways and took ourselves over to the highly recommended Reykjavík Roasters for some warm coffee.
We sat and enjoyed our coffees and chatted for a bit, before the warmness made me start to fall asleep, haha. Once we were finished with our coffee we headed down the street to the (also highly recommended) bakery, Brauð & Co.
As you can tell from the photo, if you somehow miss the delicious smells wafting out into the street – you’re sure to take visual notice of the bakery itself. We got a cinnamon roll and a vanilla + chocolate croissant (fresh from the oven) and then made our way back to our apartment to nom’ them. Along the way we decided to use the pedestrian bridge over Route 49 (Nesbraut), something we hadn’t done before and had wanted to do because we’re weird.
As you can see there is really nothing exceptional about it, we just wanted to walk over it. It does have some nice views though. He’s facing east (notice Perlan in the distance!).
And here’s facing west.
And he’s a nice view of HI, as well as the wetlands where we saw the ducky butts.
Once home we all quickly dove into our baked goods (never mind the fact we still had cake), which were OUTSTANDING.
Seriously, easily the best croissant I’ve ever had in my life, and quite possibly the new cinnamon roll champion as well (which says something, as they make some might fine cinnamon rolls where I come from).
After that we went comatose for a bit and just enjoyed everyone’s company for the rest of the evening – and since the sun goes down quite early these days that didn’t take too long.
And that, dear friends, was our 8th Anniversary!
Since then life has essentially gotten back to Icelandic normal, but not too normal – for instance I’m pretty sure we have ghost living with us now.
Fortunately he seems to spend a lot of his time over at the construction site or on top of Thomas IV, so he isn’t too much trouble (though he can be ornery).
Also, since Halloween is over that means that it’s Christmas already, or at least that’s what the stores are telling me. To be fair, the rampant consumerism around Christmas doesn’t seem to be quite as bad here (yet), but that doesn’t mean that the stores haven’t started creeping in some holiday malts, holiday energy drinks (for real), and holiday cakes. We may or may not have indulged ourselves in a gingerbread-cream-jam holiday cake.
Hey now, we’ll stretch those anniversary excuses as thin as possible. 😛
Anyways, that’s all for now. Here’s to another crazy year with the ole’ SB and the Boys!
Until next time,